Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Front Line, are You On It?

At 50+ years of age, I have had the chance to visit thousands of places of business, and hundreds of churches. If I haven't leaned anything (according to my teenagers nada), I have leaned that first impressions count, second impressions count - and somewhere down the line, the sum total of all our impressions create a perception which is reality. What?

You go to Walmart and the greeters says "Welcome to Walmart" You head over to electronics and look for some help purchasing a new HDTV (hint hint Mary Anne), and you cannot find anyone to help. How important was the greeting that you just received? Because you are mad, you head over to best Best Buy because you have some questions that you need answered. The man in the security booth greets you. "How are you today, welcome to Best Buy." You smile back and walk towards the sea of plasma in the back of the store playing Ice Age. A sales associated approaches, "looking for a new TV?"  As if you can't find the bathroom.

You nod your head yes, and takes you to his favorite model - it's $6000. He keep telling you all the features, and it sound like Charlie Brown's teacher after a few sentences. "muah, mu muah mon." For some reason you can't seem to get a word in edgewise, such as your budget or the fact that you want to use it as a computer monitor.

Off to Radio Shack, you go ... they don't have what you want, so you decide that your 28" bubble screen TV is good enough for now - well, until the Super Bowl next January.

Think of this analogy like shopping for a church. You show up with a specific set of questions, desires, and needs. You get the standard handshake and bulletin, maybe embarrassed by being singled out as a new comer during the announcements, and possibly a gift bag with an old CD, a coffee mug with lead paint and a few mints. If you fill out the visitor card, you might get a weekly email and a follow up note in the mail.

Where did you get to express your needs, wants, or desires - or have your questions answered? It often goes something like THIS. How do we end Church-ianity? Here are some guidelines I wrote for the front line folks which we called the Welcome Ministry, at a church I once attended.

The purpose of the Welcome Ministry is to help visitors, newcomers and members take the first, or more importantly, the next step in their journey with Christ. A simple vision of meeting whatever the next need a person may have can be life changing for them.

If we view welcoming people to our church like we might welcome them to our home, you begin to get the idea. First we open a door, take someone’s coat, point them to a seat, or offer them a drink, or make sure they know where the restrooms are. If they have children in tow, we will work towards making sure they are comfortable as well.

If we view our place as one that makes taking the next step closer to Christ, we can see how important it is. One must think for moment about the churches they may have gone to in the past. Some have been good experiences and others have not so good experiences. If we look at all the little steps that have brought us to whatever point we are in our walk with God, then we will probably see many small turns and stops along the way. Who was there at those turns? At the , it was often the Greeter in the early days.

It is important to also understand that we are not just being friendly when we welcome those into our church, but we are to show the love of Christ to all; even the unlovable. The ministry is to make sure that people connect in meaningful ways for “them.” It is hard to know what someone needs when they walk through the door of the church, for this we need to ask, listen and look for the Holy Spirit.

Studies in the  show that for those that become active members and “stay,” each one must make an average of six meaningful relationships; ones in which they feel valued in some way. For those that have been in the  for some time, you most likely have these relationships in place. They are ones which you feel close enough to another, to ask how they are, and probably know something about their family and background. When a person is known by name and asked about their family or background, they begin to have some value in the process of salvation and sanctification.

As Christians (literally “Little Christs” or “Little Anointed Ones”) we are His representatives on earth. To this end, Jesus was concerned about people’s relationship with the Father. Jesus also was concerned about people’s emotions; remember His response when He heard that Lazarus had died. He cared for their physical needs too. You may remember how He treated those that were hungry by multiplying the loaves and fishes. He also healed people’s bodies. Jesus truly does want to meet our needs, both spiritual and practical… all the while pointing the way to the Father. Our job or ministry as a greeter is always to point to Him by meeting needs and showing love.

Like any journey, experiencing the  begins with a single step. The first place visitors encounter the  is pulling into a parking lot, or walking up to the building. The goal is to help them connect with those six or so people that they can call friends as quickly as possible. We have a number of programs where this takes place from small groups to  training classes, as well as through the greeters. Studies show that people enjoy meeting others on a one-on-one basis, as opposed to being singled out at some point during the service; and then being mobbed by greeters and sheep.

Our purpose is make others feel welcome, and connect in meaning relationships with others, while showing the love of Christ. Our vision is to help others take the next step with Christ by serving them, answering all their questions, and directing them to the people and/or ministries that can do that. Our goal is to get everyone that we come in contact with to "their" next level.

Team members need to learn to spot regular needs. IE: I a visitor who has children, offer to get them to children’s classes. New comers often come early, be prepared to offer water, restrooms, a cup of coffee - but be there early as well.

There are other needs too. The spiritual needs, by taking a few moments to pray and seek the Holy Spirit, you may discover these needs and offer prayer or direct them to another ministry within the church that might help them. How many greeters teams have prayed before a service like most worship teams?

All members of the Welcome Team should be trained in the 5-Part Ministry Model (see appendix). Thus, they can stand in the gap if a need arises.

Be aware that god may have chosen you to do something much more personal, such as make an invitation to a meal or cup of coffee, offer to meet a need for transportation, make a referral, stop everything and pray, give a hug - there will be many opportunities to be Jesus, and that can't be scripted, rehearsed, or done by following rigid guidelines.

Nuts and Bolts:

PARKING LOT: It is important that visitors have clearly marked parking spaces near to an entrance. For larger fellowships, a parking attendant who can direct them is helpful. During inclement weather, it is also a good idea to have some greeters armed with umbrellas to walk visitors in.

THE FRONT DOOR: Greeters should be stationed at the door to make sure people are able to get in and find the sanctuary, restrooms and other information. (Refrain from visiting with your friends)

INFORMATION TABLE: This is a table where visitors can obtain information about events such as Pastor’s Pizza,  Training Classes, Home Groups and other ministries that they may need, or even want to eventually participate in. It is especially helpful to have a New Comer’s brochure describing things that they will see during the service, how to contact the pastor, how to ask questions etc. A Welcome Packet is also a good idea, but should never be forced. This could be a fuller view, Statement of Faith (What We Believe), home group contacts and current events.

THE SANCTUARY: Greeters should stand just outside the sanctuary until worship is over. Sometimes new folks get there late, or were uncertain of the service time, or may have had trouble finding the church. This is a good place to hand out bulletins, make invitations to Pastors Meet and Greet if there is one.

It is good for the greeters to keep an eye out for unfamiliar faces in the service. Many churches have a greeting time; this is a good time to introduce new people and visitors to other church members. In larger churches the pastor may ask all members that consider it their home church to stand up. This saves the embarrassment and the number one “turn-off to visitors by not making them stand up. Church members can then easily identify those that are not members and greet them while they are sitting down.

POST MINISTRY TIME: Greeters should stand watch to see if new comers and visitors respond to the ministry time. It is always good to get their feed back and make sure that they have also connected.

GOOD BYE GREETERS: Visitors and newcomers often feel at ease after the service. They may have been nervous not knowing what to expect their first time or two. Again, this is a good time to debrief and see if there are any needs that might be met before the next service. It is also a god time to suggest a home group or other event for new people.

COMMITMENT: In order for the church to be successful, greeters play a very important role in being the first few “touches” of Jesus. The church further grows by adding and discipling committed members. People feel important when they A) feel that the pastor is available; B) have people they feel they can connect with at some level that is important to them and C) sense the Father’s love for them. Committing to making sure someone meets those first 6 new fiends is the most important step in the process of becoming a potential member. Once this goal is met, the Membership Class is the next step.

VCF 5-Part Prayer Model

Where does it hurt?
How long has is been this way?
When did you first become aware of this condition?
Describe the incident, please.

Pinpoint effected area

Command the back to straighten
Rebuke the afflicting spirit
Lead the individual through repentance/forgiveness.

Each is an example of a particular and strategic prayer strategy. We want to select the prayer strategy that best suits the condition.

Invite the presence of the Holy Spirit on the individual
Join the Holy Spirit as He ministers to the individual

Prescriptions, Referrals, Instructions

Often a prayer encounter will set as many things in motion as it resolves. You may wish to prescribe:

- Rest / exercise / diet
- prayer / study / fast
- sin no more…

You may wish to refer an individual to further ministry. Referrals may include:

- Small Group/ Care Group
- Professional Care
- Pastoral Care


Nicodemus at Nite said...

Nice. Great post. I was chuckling at some things :)

photogr said...


Your experiences at the retail stores certainly was right on. I had a good laugh. The discount retail industry has for a long time missed the importance of qualified staff in departments that need specialized assistance ( re: TV,cameras,furniture, Appliances, and patio items. It is just as bad in Home Depot and Lowes in the home improvement store category. They happily welcome you but it is difficult to find quaified help to answer your questions. Most just seem too busy stacking shelves.

Your anology about church operations are great suggestions. However, I think the experiences at stores relates equally to the churches too. Not enough help in the primary areas needing specialied attention or is staffed with ones that lack a genuine interest in their service to others.

" Hey I passed out flyers before the service. I did my job . I am done for the day" attitude does not influence many to desire a commitment to that church.

There in lies the quagmire. Not enough help, not enough training, and not enough caring.

David said...

@ Larry - I am with you. But I think if we taught people and trained them, things could easily be different. It might mean not preaching your favorite sermon.

Tracy said...

Had to laugh at your Walmart experience because I SO relate. Really like the idea of having good-bye greeters, of asking if there are any needs that might need to be met before the next service.

photogr said...

"@ Larry - I am with you. But I think if we taught people and trained them, things could easily be different."

Exactly David. Exactly.

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